Historic Preservation Commission
The Town of Washington Grove is a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. In November 2001, Washington Grove established a Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). The HPC is charged with promoting the “preservation and appreciation of the historic nature of the Town as a whole and specific sites and structures within the Town for the education and welfare of the residences of the Town, visitors thereto, and sojourners therein (Article 15.1 of the Ordinances).”
To these ends, the HPC engages in a variety of activities including the review of permit applications by property owners to the Planning Commission for exterior modifications to their houses or accessory structure or to construct a new building.
The purpose of the HPC building permit review is to encourage the preservation, where applicable, of the exterior architectural features found in the Town and encourage compatibility with neighboring contributing structures.
HPC reviews are advisory in nature. Only the Planning Commission has the authority to approve or disapprove the submittal. If at all possible, the HPC encourages you to be present when we review your project. The HPC meets third Tuesday of every month at 7:30 pm.
On this page:
- Early consultations and preliminary reviews
- Changes to structures that must be reviewed by the HPC
- Criteria for designation of historic or contributing structures
- Design criteria used to evaluate building applications
Early Consultations and Preliminary Reviews
The HPC encourages both Early Consultations and Preliminary Reviews.
- Early Consultation can take the form of informal discussion of a tentative design. You may submit material anytime, which can consist of sketches, photos, written descriptions, dreams. No application is necessary, but you should contact the Town Clerk or the HPC to be added to the agenda for the next meeting. Such Early Consultations may help in the preparation of formal architectural drawings. Ideas or suggestions at this stage may enhance compatibility as well as save time and money in developing your architectural plans.
- Preliminary Written Review. When requesting a Preliminary Written Review from the HPC please include floor plans, elevations, and descriptions of exterior building materials. Drawings should clearly show the existing structure and proposed changes. It is very helpful, especially if altering the existing structure, to include photographs and/or architectural models to convey proposed changes.
The information submitted should include the following:
- The scale of the construction in relation to the existing and surrounding structures.
- Type of exterior materials such as siding, and design elements including windows, doors, and decorative details.
- Accurate depiction of roof design including pitch, ridgeline orientation, dormers, and eave treatments.
If an applicant elects to adopt the HPC’s recommendations from a Preliminary Written Review then the HPC should be able to expedite its review of the building permit application. When the applicant later files an application for a building permit with the Town, the material submitted with the application will be compared with the earlier Preliminary Review. If it shows sufficient attention to the HPC recommendations, it will be forwarded directly to the Planning Commission. If the final design is not in accord with the Preliminary Review, the application may be added to the agenda of the next HPC meeting for formal review.
Changes to Structures that Must be Reviewed by the HPC
Reviews by the HPC focus entirely on the exterior of private and public buildings and accessory structures. No review by the HPC is required for modification to interiors. A review by the HPC is required of plans to construct new private and public buildings, to make changes in the exterior of existing structures that will be visible from a public way, and/or to relocate, move, or demolish structures.
The HPC does not review the following:
- Routine exterior maintenance, including painting;
- Construction of or change in fences and walls, trellises and screens, tree houses, oil and gas tanks and AC equipment, shutters, decks, patios, and temporary structures.
Criteria for Designation of Historic or Contributing Structures
In order to protect the significant elements of the Town’s historic character, the HPC has developed criteria for classifying structures as “contributing” (to the historic character of the Town) or “non-contributing”. The period of historic significance is the same as on Washington Grove’s Nomination to the Register of Historic Places: 1873 to 1937. In 1873, Methodists purchased the 268-acre property in order to establish the camp meeting. 1937 marks the dissolution of the camp meeting association, the end of the era of seasonal occupancy and the transition to secular administration and incorporation as a Town. As a general rule, structures constructed during this period of significance are classified by the HPC as contributing if the structure retains enough of its architectural integrity that the original building or significant portions thereof, may still be discernible within the present structure.
In general, structures are considered to be non-contributing if they were constructed after 1937 or have been so altered that the character or form of the original structure is no longer evident. However, the HPC will also consider classifying structures as contributing if they represent outstanding examples of characteristic architecture from later periods or if they or their owners played a significant role in the Town’s history. The closing year will be re-examined periodically against the state and national standards that evaluate age as a criterion for determining contribution.
Design Criteria Used to Evaluate Building Applications
This document describes architectural features that the HPC regards as character defining and hence important to preserve. The Nomination Application describes certain characteristics as “notable elements of the Town’s architectural heritage”. These provide a basis for the following list. Though the range of style includes Carpenter Gothic, Victorian, Dutch Cottage and Arts and Crafts elements, the overall nature of this heritage is “one of adaptive reuse coupled with an eclectic spirit”. Modifications to existing houses should in all cases be compatible with each individual house as well as the overall character of the Town. In our comments and recommendations to those proposing to modify the exterior of their houses or construct new ones, we are reviewing the proposed designs in light of the features listed below that we seek to preserve.
Scale and Massing
One of the most common features of Grove houses is the steep pitch of the roofs (6:12 or greater). In referring to Carpenter Gothic Cottages, the Application takes as one of the most notable elements of Town architecture the “high-pitched, steep gable ends, with their attendant high narrow interior spaces.” It goes on to note that “the high-pitched roof has as its most direct antecedents in the Grove the tents used by the early Methodists for their summer retreats.”
- Modest height with the dominant eave lines at one or one & one-half stories, preserving the scale of the original cottage and compatibility with adjoining houses.
- First floor lines close to the ground, encouraging a close relation to the outdoors.
- The overall form of the house consisting of a primary “high-pitched roof with lower additions off to the sides” or to the rear, the rooflines of which are designed to break up the overall mass of the house and be secondary in effect to the original roof.
- Multiple rooflines and features such as dormers that reduce the scale of the roof surfaces.
- Porches around the front and/or sides that bring together the different parts of the house. “This porch motif…is even more sensible in the Grove, since the use of the porches was and is so much a part of the total social fabric of the Town.”
Siting and Orientation
The houses do not present a single façade in terms of materials or detailing. They are conceived to “blend into their surroundings” and ensure the “lots meld with the natural surroundings without boundaries.” They secondarily relate to several orientations (walkways, roads, alleys, and side yards) through the use of multiple porches and entrances.
The relationship with the walkway should be reinforced as the primary symbolic entrance, best achieved with a porch., “from which the residents greet their strolling neighbors and enjoy the cool evening air.”
Garages should be visually separated from the main house and/or garage doors should not share a principal face of the residence. The use of breezeways or enclosed halls to pull a house and an accessory structure together is not encouraged; instead maintenance of the original separation of the main building from the accessory structures is seen as a means of preservation of the original character of the Town.
Surfaces of natural materials including wood siding, cedar shingles, stucco, etc. that are part of
“that non-tangible element which makes the Grove houses unique, that of integrating the houses into the forest. This “Town within a forest” is also a town of the forest for the height of the houses, their narrow peaked roofs reaching for the sky and the fact that the majority are of wood make them blend into their surroundings so well that it is often difficult to know precisely what the extent of the house really is.”
Elements and Detailing
- Ideas illustrating Design Guidelines (PDF) – by Bob Booher
- “Eclectic integrated assemblages” of details.
- Ample use of windows on all sides of the house, single or in pairs, proportioned and positioned consistent with the original windows, encouraging connection between the inside with the outside.
- Use of “high windows in the ends of the gables, both rectangular and the more evocative Gothic rose windows, …to introduce light into the long narrow spaces, …to lighten the gable end, thus allowing those inside to view the trees and the constantly changing light as the sun moved through them.”
- Extensive use of gabled, shed or eyebrow dormer windows in the high-pitched roofs making possible the “use of the high interior spaces as a ‘renovated’ second floor.”
- Doors and large windows opening onto porches to encourage the integration of inside and out. Wide-boarded window trim where located in wood siding and no trim where located in stucco. Gable and barge board ornamentation and porch detailing compatible with “the use of gingerbread (that) is perhaps the most interesting aspect of Grove houses. Certainly its use is one of the reasons that houses take on a unifying character… Taken from the Victorian style of carving the woodwork of porches, dormers, and other elements of the façade, this scroll work is in keeping with the early residents’ desire to upgrade their cottages.”
- Classical detailing of porches that can reflect the eclectic spirit of the cottages. The scale and character of new construction should be compatible with the scale and character of this type of detailing.
HPC News and Publications
Why are documents relating to the Prisoners' Relief Society in Washington Grove's WWII archives? At first, one might think that this Society relates to the foreign prisoners of war held here in the Gaithersburg area during WWII. However, the prisoners being referred...
(based on Robinson & Associates’ 2019 Historic Context Report, Town of Washington Grove (PDF)) The Chautauqua Movement developed in the last quarter of the nineteenth century to provide programming and courses for cultural uplift and recreation. Those who...
The founders of Washington Grove intended from the start that it would also operate as a summer resort. A promotional pamphlet from July 1873 read, “After the land has been plotted, it is the intention of the Trustees to issue renewable leases to sites suitable for...
The Washington Grove campground was located southwest of Emory Grove, a Methodist camp meeting established by African Americans. Although the exact date of the first Emory Grove camp meeting is unknown, it is believed to have begun informally in the 1860s by area...
The Metropolitan Branch of the B&O Railroad, which commenced passenger and freight operations on May 25, 1873, stretched at its completion from the northwest corner of Washington, D.C., to the mouth of the Monocacy River and revolutionized transportation and trade...